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Flu News January 29, 2011

Posted by ffralmm in Health & Nutrition.
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The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) publishes a weekly “Influenza Surveillance Report” called “FluView.” For the week ending January 22, Alabama was one of the worst hit states in the nation for ILI or “Influenza-Like Illness.” The report includes national and state data detailing hospitalization, death, demographics of patients, and characteristics of the virus. There are also links to state health departments which provide further levels of detail. Also available on the CDC website is vaccination data for the current year as well as historical data. Here is the link for Fastfacts on the Flu.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) provides detailed information about the spread of ILI throughout Alabama. The ADPH website provides similar data to the CDC, but also includes a surveillance map with county data. Madison County is fairing much better than other parts of the state this flu season.

Counting the Homeless January 27, 2011

Posted by ffralmm in Poverty.
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First Stop, a homeless day shelter in Huntsville, Alabama, conducts an annual census of the homeless population in Madison and Morgan counties. The census is necessary for First Stop to obtain federal grants. According to The Huntsville Times, last year’s “Point in Time Count” gathered data on 780 homeless. Data includes where they spent the previous night and whether they are veterans. Even if you read Paul Gattis’ article on the count in the Times Wednesday, visiting the al.com article is worth your time to see the other nine photographs of the camps by Dave Dieter.

Although First Stop conducts the count annually, the newest “Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” on the HUD website is dated 2007 and contains 2005 data. The data presented is national in scope and includes the following data sets: gender; age; race/ethncity; size of household; veteran status; disability status; living arrangement the night before program entry; stability of previous night’s arrangement; number of homeless persons; number of shelter/housing programs; total bed capacity.

Hunger By Any Name December 7, 2010

Posted by ffralmm in Health & Nutrition.
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Even though the local economy is strong compared to other areas around the country, many Madison County residents are still struggling. A letter writer to the The Huntsville Times reported bare cupboards at food pantries. For data collectors, hunger goes by many names.

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Building a Grad Nation December 4, 2010

Posted by ffralmm in Education.
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All too often Alabama education statistics disappoint and frustrate, but a new report issued November 30 contained news to celebrate. “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic” listed Alabama among states making “moderate progress” in reducing high school dropout rates. In fact, Alabama ranked fourth nationally. The report was published by America’s Promise Alliance and can be viewed in its entirety here: http://www.edweek.org/media/14grad1.pdf.

The state statistics begin on page 26 and list drop out rates for 2002, 2008, percent change, and the estimated net gain in graduates. The report and analysis of Alabama’s progress is discussed in detail on pages 32-33. An appendix on page 70 contains data on the change in the number of “dropout factory” high schools.

“Waiting for Superman” Spurs Local Action November 27, 2010

Posted by ffralmm in Education.
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Public education is the talk of the town. The recent screenings of “Waiting for Superman,” the passage of the Common Core State Standards by the Alabama Board of Education, and The Schools Foundation’s new “Speak Up!” initiative have many officials, parents, teachers, and voters talking about education and a path to excellence.

Economist, James Williams of the Public Affairs Research Council of America, recently spoke at the Economic and Education Forum sponsored by The Schools Foundation. He made the point that Madison County must determine the current status of public education before deciding on an action plan. He presented an analysis of all three public school systems. Two versions of his presentation and analyses of test score data for every Madison County public school is available on the PARCA website.

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